Cuba Libre

Cuba Libre

For other meanings of 'Cuba Libre' see Cuba libre (disambiguation)

The Cuba Libre (IPA /'kuβ̞a'liβ̞ɾe/ in Spanish, kjuːbʌ liːbɹeɪ/ in English, "Free Cuba"), sometimes called Cubalibre, is a highball made of Cola, lime, and rum. This highball is often referred to as a Rum and Coke in the United States and Canada, where the lime juice is optional. Bacardi claims ownership of the original, while some have also claimed it for Havana Club. It seems unlikely, however, that anyone could safely identify the first individual to combine rum and Coca-Cola —when seven or eight individuals lay claim to the creation of the Margarita, a far more complex drink— let alone identify the brand.


Accounts of the invention of the Cuba Libre vary. One account claims that the drink (Spanish for Free Cuba) was invented in Havana, Cuba around 1900. Patriots aiding Cuba during the Spanish-American War — and, later, expatriates avoiding Prohibition regularly mixed rum and Cola as a highball and a toast to this West Indies island.

"The world's most popular drink was born in a collision between the United States and Spain. It happened during the Spanish-American War at the turn of the century when Teddy Roosevelt, the Rough Riders, and Americans in large numbers arrived in Cuba. One afternoon, a group of off-duty soldiers from the U.S. Signal Corps were gathered in a bar in Old Havana. Fausto Rodriguez, a young messenger, later recalled that a captain came in and ordered Bacardi (Gold) rum and Coca-Cola on ice with a wedge of lime. The captain drank the concoction with such pleasure that it sparked the interest of the soldiers around him. They had the bartender prepare a round of the captain's drink for them. The Bacardi rum and Coke was an instant hit. As it does to this day, the drink united the crowd in a spirit of fun and good fellowship. When they ordered another round, one soldier suggested that they toast ¡Por Cuba Libre! in celebration of the newly freed Cuba. The captain raised his glass and sang out the battle cry that had inspired Cuba's victorious soldiers in the War of Independence."

However, there are some problems with Bacardi's account, as the Spanish-American war was fought in 1898, Cuba's liberation was in 1898, and the Rough Riders left Cuba in September 1898, but Coca-Cola was not available in Cuba until 1900. According to a 1965 deposition by Fausto Rodriguez, the Cuba Libre was first mixed at a Cuban bar in August of 1900 by a member of the U.S. Signal Corps, referred to as "John Doe".

Along with the Mojito and the Daiquiri, the Cuba Libre shares the mystery of its exact origin. The only certainty is that this cocktail was first sipped in Cuba. The year? 1900. 1900 is generally said to be the year that cola first came to Cuba, introduced to the island American troops. But “Cuba Libre!” was the battle cry of the Cuba Liberation Army during the war of independence that ended in 1878.


This drink was once viewed as exotic, with its dark syrup, made (at that time) from cola nuts and coca.

Soon enough, as Charles H. Baker points out in his Gentlemen's Companion of 1934, the Cuba Libre "caught on everywhere throughout [[U.S. Southern States|the [American] South]] ... filtered through the North and West," aided by the ample supply of its ingredients. In The American Language, 1921, H.L. Mencken writes of an early variation of the drink: "The troglodytes of western South Carolina coined 'jump stiddy' for a mixture of Coca-Cola and denatured alcohol (usually drawn from automobile radiators); connoisseurs reputedly preferred the taste of what had been aged in Model-T Fords." This comment throws further doubt on Bacardi's account of the drink's Cuban origins.

The drink gained further popularity in the United States after the Andrews Sisters recorded a song (in 1945) named after the drink's ingredients, "Rum and Coca-Cola." Cola and rum were both cheap at the time and this also contributed to the widespread popularity of the concoction.

In the Canadian television series Trailer Park Boys, the character of Julian always has a rum and coke.

Various characters voiced by talk radio host Phil Hendrie on The Phil Hendrie Show have been known to order rum and Coca-Cola. Captain Morgans and Coca-Cola is Chris Norton's drink of choice, while Ted Bell claims to have been the first person ever to mix rum and Coca-Cola. Ted Bell serves Captain Morgans and Coke at his fictitious restaurant, Ted's of Beverly Hills, where the drink is known as "The Ted".

In the American award-winning comedy The Big Bang Theory, the character of Sheldon attempts to order a Diet Coke, but is denied and is asked to order a cocktail instead. He orders a "Virgin Cuba Libre" (which is Rum and Coke, minus the Rum). Sheldon also comments on how a Cuba Libre is served in a long, slender glass with a wedge of lime.


To make a Cuba Libre properly, fill a high ball glass with ice and half fill with cola. In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 shots of white rum with the juice of half a lime, add ice and shake. Strain the mixture over the coke - the rum and lime juice mix should float over the coke.

Recipe Variations

The Cuba Pintada ("stained Cuba") is one part rum with two parts club soda and just enough cola so that it tints the club soda. The Cuba Campechana ("straightforward Cuba") contains one part rum topped off with equal parts of club soda and cola. They are both popular refreshments, especially among young people.

A recent variation is the Coppertone which specifically uses Malibu Rum (rum with a natural coconut extract) and Cherry Coke (or Cherry Pepsi or Cherry RC Cola) for the cola component. The resulting drink has an aroma not entirely unlike suntan lotion and the name is an allusion to that.

Another variation of the Cuba Libre is the Cuban Missile Crisis. Compared to a normal Cuba Libre, it uses a higher proof rum, such as Bacardi 151 (75.5%).

Some people substitute Cream Soda and spiced rum to create a bright gold drink, often referred to as a Midas.

Another recent variatio nis the Venezuela Libre, inspired by the now-increasing similarities between Venezuela and Cuba. It has 1.5 ounces of Venezuelan White Rum, 1.5 ounces of Venezuelan Gold Rum, 3 ounces of lemon mix, 1 lemon wedge and a dash of angostura bitters, diet coke is used instead of normal coke.

In Italy Vincenzo and his good friends drink it ONLY with brown/dark/navy rum

Local Variations

The drink's name has evolved somewhat in both Cuba and the United States, where some choose to refer to it as a Mentirita ("a little lie"), in an opinionated reference to Cuban politics.

In Nicaragua, when it is mixed using Flor de Caña (the national brand of rum) and cola, it is called a Nica Libre.

In Venezuela the Cuba Libre Preparado ("Prepared Cuba Libre") includes a dash of gin and a dash of Angostura bitters.

In Spain Rioja Libre is an alternate name for Kalimotxo, a mixture of Spanish red wine and cola popular among the young people. It is named after the Rioja wine region. Cuba Libre is also called "Ron-Cola" in Spain.

In Australia, where the drink enjoys huge popularity, it is known simply as Rum and Coke. It is sold pre-mixed in cans.

In Peru, a variation called Peru Libre is made with pisco rather than rum.

In the United Kingdom, rum and coke served with a slice of lime is often known as a "Lou Bega", named after the pop artist of the same name.

In the Netherlands the drink is commonly called Baco, from the two ingredients of Bacardi and coke.

See also


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